The Winnipeg Jets are currently on a well-deserved four-day break after playing nine games in 16 days, but The Hockey Writers and this author never take a holiday. Despite the fact more than half of the 2018-19 season has yet to be played, the Central Division-leading Jets have racked up a lot of wins so far — 24 of them, in fact — and created many memorable moments in the process.
Their wins have run the gamut: big blowouts, rousing comebacks and frenetic track meets. Some have been total team efforts while others have featured brilliant individual performances. Many have stood out as particularly exciting, exhilarating and electrifying. As this author’s holiday gift to you, I present what are, in my opinion the Jets’ top five victories so far this season.
5: Jets Start the Season in Style — Oct. 4
Coming off their historic 52-win 2017-18 season and deep playoff run, expectations surrounding the Jets were at sky-high levels coming into this season. In their first game of the new campaign against the St. Louis Blues, they made a big statement that the past year was no fluke.
Patrik Laine opened the scoring early in the first period, but it was in the third where the Jets really flashed their offensive riches. They lit the lamp four times in less than six minutes thanks to a shorthanded breakaway from Adam Lowry, a perfectly executed two-on-one finished by Blake Wheeler, a deft tip-in by Mark Scheifele and an off-the-rush backhand from Brandon Tanev.
Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck, fresh off a career-high 44-win season, also turned in a great performance. He cast aside 41 shots, including a number of 10-bell chances with his team on the penalty kill and clinging to a one-goal lead in the mid-second and early third.
4: Jets Soar Over the Flyers — Dec. 9
It’s not how you start, but how you finish. That saying was on full display in a Sunday matinee as the Jets came out flat against the Philadelphia Flyers and were dominated through the first 10 minutes. Yet they still ended up with a convincing 7-1 victory.
It was Hellebuyck who single-handedly mitigated his team’s lack of early intensity by making a number of excellent early saves, including a number of athletic ones when the Flyers were buzzing on the power play.
Hellebuyck’s play sparked the Jets and allowed them to get their legs under them. They ended up putting seven behind the Flyers’ goaltending duo of Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz. Scheifele, Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey (in his return from injury) and Tyler Myers all had multi-point games. Most of the talk after the game was deservedly around Hellebuyck, though, as the 36-save afternoon represented a welcome return to form after a number of sub-par performances.
3: Laine Leads Jets with Homecoming Hat Trick — Nov. 1
The Finnish phenom, returning to his old stomping grounds for a pair of games as part of the 2018 Global Series, put in a thrilling, dominant performance that his ardent, adoring followers will remember for years to come.
Related: Laine’s Homecoming a Sight to Behold
Laine showed everyone “who the daddy” was by putting up a hat trick against the Florida Panthers at Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena. He scored two power play goals on blistering shots, the second of which was the third-period game-winner, before potting an empty-netter that ensured his Finnish fans would lose their headgear.
The three-goal performance was important to the Jets’ victory, but even more important to Laine personally. His confidence was at an all-time low coming into the series as he’d struggled mightily through the first month of the season, having scored just three goals, and generally looked lost. However, the homecoming gave him a chance to get reset and get his mojo back and he grabbed it. It was a turning point for the 20-year-old and just the beginning of the best month of his three-year NHL career, but more on that later.
2: Jets Pull Off Comeback in Midtown Manhattan — Dec. 2
A loss against the New York Rangers seemed a foregone conclusion as the Jets found themselves facing a 3-0 deficit after two periods. They’d outshot the Rangers 24-11 but were repeatedly stoned by veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
However, the Jets would not give up. They showed a never-say-die attitude and put their balanced attack on display as three different lines notched goals in the final frame. Bryan Little scored the game-tying goal with 2:30 left on the clock when he banged in a rebound generated by Ehlers’s shot. Scheifele capped the gutsy comeback victory with the shootout game-winner.
1: Laine Tickles Twine 5 Times Against the Blues — Nov. 24
I promised there’d be more on Laine a little later. By far the most exciting game of the Jets’ season thus far was a late-November 8-4 win over the Blues where everything Laine touched turned into goals. Just call him King Midas.
Laine’s performance was one for the ages — he turned heads and became an online sensation by scoring five goals on five shots. He became the first player since 2011 to do so, broke his own record for goals in a single month and even won Winnipeg pastor Christopher Haley more than $1 million thanks to the Safeway/Sobey’s Score & Win contest.
The five-goal game was the punctuation mark on Laine’s November, an outstanding month in which he tallied 18 goals and one assist in 12 games thanks to his renewed confidence and chemistry with linemates Kyle Connor and Little, both of whom had four assists in the contest.
Related: Laine’s November a Month to Remember
Even more importantly, it helped the Jets bounce back from a demoralizing loss the day before against the Minnesota Wild in which they blew a third-period two-goal lead and lost 4-2. Since the game in St. Louis, the Jets are 11-3-0.
Stay Tuned: There’s More Excitement Yet to Come
If you could barely handle the excitement of the Jets’ season so far, you better grab an inhaler. They have 46 more regular season games to come, games which will undoubtedly bring just as many, if not more, thrills and chills than the first 36. The team will be motivated to create more special moments as they pursue their first-ever Central Division championship and Presidents’ Trophy.
The Jets have three more games in 2018 — they hit the Bell MTS Place ice on Dec. 27 for a date with the Calgary Flames before hosting the Wild on Dec. 29. Then they hit the road for a New Year’s Eve clash with the Edmonton Oilers. Do you agree with this list? What other Jets’ victories got you out of your seat? Comment below!